Reflective Task 2: Learning Styles

Identify your top Learning Style(s) and some characteristics of the style.

Reflector

I like to take some time to observe, collect information, and reflect on this information before acting upon it. I prefer to do a thorough job rather than rushing through an activity for the sake of expediency.

Theorist

I like having the time to explore and probe through ideas and concepts to fully understand them. I prefer a systematic way of approaching situations by analysing it from different points of view.

Using the handouts provided as a guide, reflect on whether you agree with the assessment. Any new learning or insights? Surprises?

I agree with the assessment and see how I am equally a reflector and a theorist. In particular, the results explain why I take time to create activity plans for my field placement. Considering that I visit my kindergarten class only twice a week, I needed several weeks of observation and experience with the children before understanding what types of activity may or may not interest them. Additionally, I needed to thoroughly understand the Full-Day Kindergarten Curriculum, from which I base the activity’s anticipated learning, before completing my planning forms.

Although most of the characteristics of a reflector and a theorist apply to my learning style, I am surprised to see that my tendency to lead discussions and group assignments lies within an activist’s learning style (my lowest preference). At the same time, it is interesting to note that amidst leading the group, I take a step back and allow each member to put their ideas forth before sharing mine or before coming to a conclusion about the subject at hand.

Knowing your preferences is a first step to becoming an ‘all-around learner’. Identify which styles you are under-utilising and what you may do to strengthen them.

My preference to the pragmatist learning style (14 points) comes to a close second with the reflector and theorist styles (15 points). However, my preference for the activist learning style falls way behind the three with eight points. This makes sense in that the activist learning style seems to be a direct opposite of the reflector and theorist styles. For that reason, I believe that I need to be more spontaneous and open to new experiences. Moreover, acting on instinct once in a while may help me strengthen my activist learning style as I become skilled at thinking on my feet.

Joining the Girl Guides of Canada as a Unit Leader supports this practice. As a new Guider, I am thrust into unfamiliar situations that I have no background in. Thus, to practice learning as an activist, I need to speak up more in the meetings and take on the role I signed up for—a leader who generates ideas on the spot most of the time.

Reflections on Inner Qualities of Early Childhood Educators

According to Laura J. Colker (2008), a curriculum developer and teacher trainer, there are twelve characteristics that make Early Childhood Educators effective. Since environment is important to children’s learning, the educators are expected to be passionate, persevering, willing to take risks, pragmatic, patient, flexible, respectful, creative, authentic, has a love of learning, has high energy, and has a sense of humour (Colker, 2008). And as discussed in Class 1 (EDUC16800, January 12, 2016), highly trained, responsive, and caring educators are key to quality child care.

Part A: Two Inner Qualities That I Value to be an Effective Early Childhood Educator

I believe that those twelve characteristics enumerated by Colker, and more, are important as an Early Childhood Educator, but I value passion and respect above all.

Passion

Having passion as an Early Childhood Educator means that there is great enthusiasm for taking care of and facilitating young children’s learning and adaptation to their environment. It means loving what you do as an educator and feeling excited to see children’s faces light up as they begin to understand a concept or as they enjoy their activities. It means having the mindset of changing the world one little person at a time, despite any challenges that may come.

Passion is important in being an effective Early Childhood Educator because it gives you the drive to continue what you do day in and day out. It gives you the energy to keep up with the active little ones no matter how tiring the previous day was. It helps you persevere through the challenges of changing societal, parental, and legal expectations. Passion puts a smile on your face at the end of a long day’s work.

Respect

Similarly, respect encompasses many aspects of being an educator. It involves recognition and regard of others’ opinions, cultures, and beliefs. It also includes appreciation and valuing of property and of the environment.

Being respectful breaks down communication barriers and conflict. It allows children to explore their own cultures and form their own beliefs. It allows for a beginner’s mindset in which the educator sees each child as a newborn every day; a blank slate that is given many chances to learn and to make mistakes on a daily basis. It is an emulation worthy of imitation, creating a safe and positive space for young minds to flourish in.

Part B: Practical Strategies for the Application of the Two Inner Qualities I Value Most

Passion and respect are two inner qualities that I value most to be an effective Early Childhood Educator. Together, these two support in building up sensitive, responsive, and caring educators. Passionate educators enjoy learning and developing professionally, as well as teaching and facilitating children’s learning, while valuing respect gives them the ability to be flexible and open-minded, and to distinguish between personal needs and the children’s needs.

Passion Reflected

A passionate educator creates a supportive early learning environment that fosters initiative, autonomy, and independence. She provides open-ended materials that are “developmentally appropriate” (Tate, 2016b) to coax a child’s initiative. This promotes choice and decision-making, allowing for the child to explore her own interests and discover answers to her curiosity. In addition, according to Deb Curtis and Margie Carter, “[e]nvironments should provide opportunities for children to feel the power of their bodies and ideas” (2015, p. 24). Thus, it is important to create an active, play-based environment wherein these open-ended materials exist. The educator’s passion translates onto her “recogniz[ing] and encourag[ing] the child’s reasoning and problem solving” (Tate, 2016a) as she allows the child “to do things for [herself]” (Tate, 2016b), to “explore, manipulate, combine and transform materials [she chooses]” (Tate, 2016a), and to express herself through language.

Furthermore, arranging the active, play-based environment into interest areas “encourage[s] engagement of children”, “foster[s] decision making, problem solving, inquiry and exploration”, and “promote[s] independence” (Tate, 2016d). Organizing the environment into interest areas “requires observing and listening [to the children], and careful thinking and rethinking, ideally through a process that gathers the perspectives and investment of others” (Curtis & Carter, 2015, p. 30). Here, then, the educator utilizes her passion and drive to persevere through any challenges she may face. Curtis and Carter suggest that she “[s]eek out people who are forging ahead, find ways to reflect on the intent of regulations and assessment tools, and go beyond compliance as a definition of providing quality” (2015, p. 31). Her enthusiasm enables her to reach out to others and to persist through the tasks of creating an active, play-based environment divided into interest areas filled with open-ended materials despite any undesirable encounters.

Respect Modelled

Likewise, an educator who values and exhibits respect creates a supportive early learning environment that nurtures trust, cooperation, empathy, and self-confidence. She establishes a prosocial environment “where behaviours benefit others and demonstrate a presence of a social conscience and regard for the rights of others” (Tate, 2016c). She creates this atmosphere by “handl[ing] aggression positively”, “enforce[ing] appropriate rules”, “protect[ing] individual rights”, and “provid[ing] affirmation, affection, [and] acceptance” (Tate, 2016c). All these actions reflect having respect for others and for property, and “model[ling] [this] appropriate behaviour” (Tate, 2016c) further enriches the establishment of a prosocial environment.

The materials chosen also play a significant part in the educator’s portrayal of respect in the early learning environment. Firstly, “[m]aterials should reflect children’s interests, . . . experience, [and] culture” (Tate, 2016b), as well as “reflect diversity in an unbiased way” (Tate, 2016b). By representing the children’s interests, experience, and culture through the materials available in the play space, the educator shows respect for each child as an individual. She also illustrates respect for others and for diversity as the children interact with these materials and with each other. Secondly, labelling these materials’ storages appropriately goes a long way in letting the child know that she is respected and that the materials need to be respected. By choosing the appropriate level of labelling according to the child’s developmental level, the educator demonstrates respect for the child’s learning and development needs. As the child decodes the labels accordingly, she “feel[s] better about [herself], [becomes] less frustrated, and [becomes] more cooperative” (Tate, 2016d). The child also exercises her independence and initiative as she is able to “find things easily and put them away” without needing extra help (Tate, 2016d). Moreover, this teaches the child respect as she takes proper care of the materials and returns them into their proper places.

Conclusion

Passion and respect can translate into the early learning environment in various ways. For instance, an educator’s enthusiasm allows her to project this passion and encourage the children in pursuing their own interests through independence, autonomy, and initiative by providing open-ended materials, creating an active, play-based environment, and dividing this space into interest areas. Additionally, in establishing a prosocial environment and offering materials that reflect children’s individuality and diversity, and arranging appropriately-labelled storage spaces, the educator models respect and the children learns respect accordingly.

References

Colker, Laura J. (2008). Twelve Characteristics of Effective Early Childhood Teachers. Beyond the Journal: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Curtis, D., Carter, M. (2015). Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments. Canada: Redleaf Press.

Tate, J. (2016a). Module 1: Quality Indicators in Early Learning Environments [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016b). Module 2.1: Creating a Supportive and Inclusive Learning Environment [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016c). Module 2.2: Creating a Nurturing and Responsive Classroom Culture [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016d). Module 3.1: Organizing the Early Learning Classroom for Play [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.